March 18, 2011

Second Sunday of Lent / Msgr. Owen F. Campion

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe Book of Genesis is the source of this weekend’s first reading.

As its name implies, Genesis reveals the divine origin of life, and also reveals the divine plan in the forming of the Hebrew race.

Genesis is a splendidly vivid revelation of God’s majesty and power, and indeed of the dignity of humanity.

It is a great pity that this marvelous book has been so often tortured and misconstrued by well-meaning but uninformed readers over the years. In their earnest attempt to preserve the divine character of this book, they lose much of its impact.

This weekend’s reading is about Abraham. Considered by scholars to have been an actual person, Abraham is regarded as the father of the Jewish people.

The reading makes several points. God is active in human affairs, and humans can communicate with God. Abraham has a very strong faith.

God rewards his faith by pledging that Abraham’s descendants, until the end of time, will be God’s special people. It is not a dignity conferred with obligation. The people who descend from Abraham must be loyal to God, and by their lives of faith reveal God to the world.

For its second reading, this weekend’s liturgy presents a passage from St. Paul’s Second Epistle to Timothy.

Timothy was a disciple of Paul and is venerated by the Church as a great saint who was important in the formation of Christianity.

According to the New Testament, Timothy was the son of a pagan father and a devout Jewish mother. He was Paul’s secretary at one point. He once was imprisoned with Paul, but was released. Tradition identifies Timothy as the first bishop of Ephesus.

In this reading, Paul encourages Timothy to be strong in his Christian belief despite the difficulties and obstacles that will arise in his ministry.

St. Matthew’s Gospel furnishes the last reading.

It is the story of the Transfiguration, replete with symbols of God and images of God that were familiar to Jews because these symbols and images appear throughout the Old Testament.

Brilliant light, mountaintops and pure white symbolized God. Surrounding Jesus were Moses and Elijah, the great heroes of the religious tradition.

This scene utterly contrasts with that of Calvary. Instead of shimmering clothes, Jesus on the cross has been stripped of his garments. Instead of glowing clouds and brilliant light, gloom and darkness surround him on the cross.


Lent is little more than one week in progress, and already the Church is encouraging us and reinforcing our faith as Jesus strengthened the faith of the Apostles, who stood trembling and in dismay before the divine sight manifested on the mountain.

The message is clear. Jesus is God, and is active and present among us.

However, we must personally believe in order to be saved. And in this belief, we must commit our very lives to Christ.

Abraham is a critical part of this weekend’s scriptural lesson.

Nowhere in these readings is there any account of the Crucifixion. Nowhere is Calvary mentioned in these Scripture passages. Nevertheless, the event of the Lord’s death on the cross is essential to understanding fully this weekend’s message.

Calvary represents the world. It was for a moment, seemingly, the triumph of earthly power and human sin over goodness. At least, surely this is how it was interpreted by the enemies of Jesus.

Of course, Jesus reversed all this sin by rising in glory.

Every human being can be tricked into assuming that earthly things or earthly satisfaction will bring them to triumph. They will not. Sin brings death. All around sin is gloom and darkness.

But we must have faith to see beyond the gloom to the light of Jesus as seen at the Transfiguration.

Abraham is our model, our father in faith, our witness of absolute faith. †

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